I am presupposing that you have a standard kit lens that came with your DSLR and it has a zoom with a range of 18-55mm as most do. The lenses listed below would be additions to your kit zoom.
1. The nifty fifty or 50mm f1.8
Despite the fact that most cameras come with a zoom kit lens in the range of 18-55mm, I always advise buying a camera body and choosing the lens that most suits you. The kit lenses that come with a camera are most times of dubious quality. In order to keep the entry level cost down an inexpensive lens needs to be sold with the camera. So why is the 50mm prime lens a first choice? Firstly, it’s a better build quality lens than the kit lens and secondly, it’s reasonably priced. What I like about it is the f1.8 aperture. This gives you the option of shooting in low light conditions with such a wide aperture and the depth of field at f1.8 is great. You don’t really need the kit zoom lens because at this focal lengths you can use your feet to zoom in or out.
2. An all-purpose zoom in the range of 70-300mm
Most photographers want the ability to zoom despite the fact that in most situations you can use your feet unless of course you are shooting snakes, crocodiles or lions. This is a useful lens for an amateur photographer especially with the crop factor on most DSLRs that aren’t full frame. This can give you an extra 60% when zooming and it brings the 300mm focal length to the equivalent of 480mm which is useful when shooting wildlife such as birds. There are a number of quality lenses in this range at reasonable prices. Remember that the quality of the glass is important and you will always get what you pay for.
3. A wide angle lens in the 17-85mm range
Wide angle lenses are great if you’re into landscape photography or need to shoot indoors where space is limited. Again the quality of the glass is going to be important especially when you are shooting in close confines. The reason I place this as the third in my list is that most beginners don’t really find a wide angle lens an essential part of their kit. It’s a more specialist lens but if you can afford one it’s great to have it in your bag.
It would be great to be able to buy all three of these lenses with your camera but most of us aren’t able to do this. Use these three choices as a guideline for growing your kit. They aren’t set in stone so if you want to get a zoom first and then a 50mm it’s up to you. Or if you know that you really love landscape photography then start with a wide angle.
These are my suggestions based on my experience and the photos I enjoy shooting so yours might vary. Once you have these lenses in your bag you can find what you really enjoy and buy a specialist lens for that particular genre. Remember the quality is in the glass so look at whatever lens you buy as an investment in your photographic future. Happy shooting!
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Wayne Turner studied with the New York Institute of Photography, has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography.